Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chinese Five-Spice Truffles for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Last summer I tasted fabulous Chinese 5-Spice Truffles at a special event. The chef wouldn't part with his recipe, so I did a bit of sleuthing. I found several recipes on the Internet, and experimented. As always the final outcome depends on the quality of chocolate and, in this case, the spices. I found some locally produced Chinese Five-Spice, and I prefer it to the 'regular' Chinese 5-spice you can get at the local market. In case you want to make your own, scroll down for a recipe for Chinese Five Spice. It's easy to make, and that way you get to control the quality and freshness.

Chinese Five-Spice Truffles

1 lb dark chocolate, preferably 70%
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can mix in a bit of sugar if you want to be festive)

Melt chocolate in metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or in a double boiler). Take off stove and pour cream with spices over it. Let stand 2-3 minutes and then whisk together until smooth. Refrigerate for an hour.  Take out of refrigerator and scoop or spoon into balls and put on parchment-lined baking sheet.
Put baking sheets in refrigerator for a few hours to firm up.
When balls are cold and solid, roll in cocoa powder, shaking off excess.

Chinese Five Spice
Recipe from

3 Tbsp cinnamon
6 star anise or 2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in blender or coffee grinder. Blend until finely ground. Store in airtight container. Keeps up to 2 months.

Tip: You can "roast" the whole spices a bit for a more intense flavor in a dry frying pan, but watch closely, so spices don't burn

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chocolate Gazpacho for Super Bowl or Valentine's Day

So many great foods to serve for Super Bowl Sunday, but here's one that's right up my alley: Chocolate Gazpacho. I love Chocolate Soup! This Chocolate Gazpacho recipe is from Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar. Thank You, Mat, for permission to post! And, of course, this Chocolate Gazpacho would be great to serve on Valentine's Day! It's quite versatile!

Chocolate Gazpacho

3 Tbsp unsweetened dark Cocoa Powder
2 cloves garlic
1 small shallot, diced
1 Tbsp Spanish Sherry Vinegar
1/2 cup Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup cucumber
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup to 1 cup cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place all ingredients into pitcher of blender and blend until smooth. Add enough water to make consistency of choice, but make sure you don’t dilute the flavor.
Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate to chill the soup.
Before serving, garnish with chocolate shavings. You can also add croutons for a crunch.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cherry Port Heart-Shaped Brownies

Here's a great brownie recipe for Valentine's Day--Cherry Port Brownies. Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. Want to make these special? Use a 3" heart-shaped cookie cutter to make Brownie Hearts. The photo is from Betty Crocker, and their recipe uses the Betty Crocker Brownie Mix. That's a big shortcut. It's up to you. You can always use the mix and add some dried cherries soaked in port. Another festive touch is to sprinkle with powdered cocoa or drizzle with red icing, after the brownies have cooled.


2 Tbsp port
1/2 cup dried cherries
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, cold
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Position oven rack in center of oven; preheat to 325 degrees F.
Line 8x8x2-inch pan with foil. Butter foil; set aside.
In small saucepan, bring port and water to boiling. Add dried cherries; cook and stir over low heat until fruit is soft and plump and liquid evaporates. Using spatula, scrape cherries into bowl; set aside to cool.
Set heatproof bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water (be sure water doesn't touch bottom of bowl). Place butter in bowl; scatter 6 oz. chocolate over butter. Heat until chocolate is almost melted (you do not want to heat the mixture so much that the butter and chocolate separate). Remove bowl from heat. Stir until butter and chocolate are smooth. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, stirring until batter is smooth and glossy. Whisk in salt. Gently whisk in flour, stirring only until it disappears into the batter. Using spatula, stir in port-soaked cherries (and any liquid that accumulated) and remaining 4 1/2 oz. chopped chocolate.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top as much as possible.
Bake 35 minutes.
Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature.
Invert brownies onto cutting board; gently peel away foil
Turn brownies over. Cut into squares or use 3" heart shaped cookie cutter. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Super Bowl Chocolate Beer Pretzel Truffles

Here's a great recipe for Super Bowl Sunday These Truffles contain all the football food groups: Chocolate, Beer & Pretzels (or nuts). These Chocolate Beer Truffles are rolled in Crushed Pretzels, but you can use crushed Peanuts or crushed Beer Nuts. If you're a purist, you can always roll them in cocoa!


3/4 cup Beer (Guinness or another Beer you favor)
1 pound dark chocolate (65-75% cacao)--I really like to use Guittard Chocolate in my truffles
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Crushed salted pretzels

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or saucepan over saucepan with simmering water.
Stir in cream.
Slowly add Guinness, stirring to blend.
Cover and chill overnight.
Shape mixture into 3/4 inch balls using small scoop or melon baller or your hands - using about tablespoon of ganache for each.
Roll in crushed Salted Pretzels (or crushed peanuts or beer nuts).